Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

Some of the fears expressed in Council hearings, Environment Court, High Court and Parliament, (the whole gamut of New Zealand environmental law), regarding a marina at Whangamata, were around the need for constant dredging as well as unregulated privatisation of foreshore and seabed.
Whangamata estuary has (had) three outstanding natural features close together, the Whangamata Bar (a sand bar surf spot rated internationally), a shellfish bed and a small but perfectly formed wetland. All of these features are in “Public” ownership. The wetland, now destroyed, is a carpark and gated (marine) industrial area, part of the marina project.
The occupational scope of the marina has increased spatially with the council giving over parts of the public boat ramp for dredging purposes. At no time in the 15 years of gaining consents for the marina was the use of the boar ramp signalled.
That the access channel needed dredging two months after it opened questions the sustainability of the marina and what drove (drives) the environmental planning and legal teams of those councils.
The channel that requires dredging runs through the middle of a shellfish bed. This shellfish bed has a biological history many thousands of years old and a cultural history of a thousand years. These histories along with the current use of the shellfish bed were a driver for Maori groupings to oppose the building of the marina.
These Maori groupings introduced an expert witness from the surfing community to the appeal process. The surfer’s argument was that the constant dredging of the channel puts at risk the quality of the Whangamata surfbreak. Surfers argue that the inner estuary delta was part of the sand reservoir for the Whangamata Bar. Dredging would also change water velocity flows within the estuary putting at risk the Bar’s morphology and its high quality.
The Councils spent millions of dollars degenerating the surfer argument at the time and continue to actively block or bypass concerns from representative groupings of surfers. Once the Councils have had their way with the environment, usually for the purposes of promoting marine estate, they will then announce they are ready to talk about it.
Dredging began on 5th of February without any public notice. Parliament stipulated that parties associated with the appeals were to be given a months notice of the dredging methodology so they could make comment on it. To bypass this stipulation the Regional and District Councils have crafted a twisting of the regulatory system. The District Council gets a dredging consent, which they then “give” (?) to the marina. The Regional Council then processes the consent behind closed doors.
This allows no public scrutiny of why dredging is required so soon or allow the Public to comment on methodology or perceived environmental effects.
The Regional Council’s representative in Whangamata (Harbourmaster) and the District Councils local chairperson, when asked, on 5th of February, why is dredging required so soon and how will the dredging be done, (both) replied we would have to address the marina developers. Basically the Councils want the marina developers to be the de-facto owners of Whangamata foreshore and seabed with everyone answering to them.
The methodology employed on 5th February 2010 was as follows. A barge with a long arm excavator digs out the channel placing the sediment on the barge. The barge then moves to the boat ramp (using the digger arm) and dumps the dredged material into the water on the inter-tidal flats. When the tide goes out another digger comes and scoops together the dispersed sediment and re-piles it further up the boatramp. This all happens below mean high springs in the coastal marine area.
The material is then, spread down the ski lane. There is no reason for this other than getting rid of the material. The other area it was dispersed was the north facing side of the children’s playground. The bank at this site had given way when stormwater lowed the beach profile last (2009) winter. This stormwater inundation was exasperated by the wetland being plugged.
This dredging methodology is new and has been developed by the Councils with the marina developers. It’s the methodology designers who are checking the quality of this methodology.